Meghan and Harry’s decision to spend Christmas in the States, far away from the royal family has increased speculation that Meghan and Kate don't get on. But why does being related mean they must be friends?
Words by Michelle Davies
The last time the duchesses of Cambridge and Sussex were pictured at the same event was at the Remembrance Day service in Whitehall in November – where the fact they were standing on separate balconies was immediately seized upon as further proof they can’t bear to be in each other’s company. The actual explanation for their separation was, unsurprisingly, far more technical and pedestrian: Royal protocol demands family members stand in order of precedence, so while Kate, wife to a future King, was with the Queen and Prince Charles’s wife Camilla, Meghan was positioned with the other lower-ranking royals.
But even if it was true and they didn’t want to stand together, what does it matter? Where does it say in the constitution that sisters-in-law must be best friends and why, as a nation, are we so obsessed with wanting Kate and Meghan to like each other?
Family doesn’t equal friendship
Whether you marry into the same family, like Kate and Meghan did, or if either of you is the sibling of the other woman’s partner, anyone who has a sister-in-law knows what a fraught and peculiar relationship it can be. You have no shared history and chances are very little in common. The triggers that spark other friendships – university, working in the same profession, a shared hobby – don’t exist here, yet people assume you will get on regardless and if you don’t there must be something wrong.
‘“Sisters” is a very loaded term – it carries an expectation,’ said Dr Terri Apter, psychologist and author of What Do You Want From Me? Learning To Get Along With In-Laws. ‘There’s a moral heft for sisters-in-law to be caring, the kinship keepers. If you’re not a good sister, there’s an implication that maybe you’re a bad woman.’
Diana and Fergie’s legacy
Two royal sisters-in-law who did manage to forge a close relationship were Sarah ‘Fergie’ Ferguson and Diana, Princess of Wales. Brought together by their marriages to Andrew and Charles and thrust into a spotlight neither was prepared for, they clung to each other like barnacles. ‘Diana was my best friend and the funniest person I knew,’ said Fergie in a 2018 interview. ‘She had such timing and wit. It was a total joy to be with her because we just laughed and enjoyed life so much.’
However, Sarah and Diana didn’t just share the same sense of humour, they also came from similar aristocratic backgrounds (Diana’s father was the 8th Earl Spencer – the family can trace their ancestry back to the 15th century – and Fergie’s dad is Major Ronald Ferguson – a descendent of King Charles II through one of his illegitimate children) and both women were actually fourth cousins whose mothers went to school together, meaning they knew each other as teens. All Kate and Meghan had in common ground prior to becoming royal brides is that they were, well, women.
Different squad goals
The bottom line is, Kate and Meghan are simply too unalike to be best friends – and you only have to look at their close friends to know that. Meghan, perhaps befitting her LA upbringing, is drawn to women whose super-charged endeavours empower others, such as clothing designer Misha Nonoo, with whom she collaborated putting together her Smart Works clothing collection to help unemployed women dress with confidence for job interviews. Another best friend is Jessica Mulroney, a Toronto-based stylist she met while acting on Suits.
Kate’s squad, meanwhile, goes about life under the radar – it includes ex-Marlborough classmates Emilia Jardine-Paterson, an interior designer whose credits include renovating the Kensington Palace apartment where Kate and William live and Amner Hall, their Norfolk home, and Trini Foyle, once an assistant to Jeremy Hunt MP.
Their polar opposite friendships doesn’t mean one sister-in-law is better than the other, however, or more successful, or more popular – it merely demonstrates the differences they have that mean their friendship might never go any deeper than a cup of tea and a catch-up at a family event. To continually pit them against each other is unsisterly – and something both women hate, according to an insider who spoke to People on the subject last November. ‘What’s challenging is when they are pitted against each other,’ said the source. ‘That’s been challenging to both of them; Meghan has her life, Kate has hers.’
So let’s just leave them to get on with it.